Yesterday my sweet sister-in-law beamed into heaven. I was compelled to write because, as I told her many times over the past ten years, she was my hero. Here’s why.
She rarely complained. Really. She suffered through a divorce, breast cancer, uterine cancer, radiation and chemotherapy and the permanent loss of her beautiful long thick hair. The radiation for her breast cancer caused lymphedema of her arm which meant that it was permanently swollen to three times its normal diameter. She wore a tight elastic sleeve every day to keep the swelling in check. Two types of cancer required her to have multiple surgeries on her thin body. After raising three of her four kids, she moved from Ohio up to the northern Michigan tundra to be closer to family. She did this all by herself. And honestly, whenever we asked how she was, she consistently replied, “Oh, I’m good, how about you?”
Nancy loved to run but over the past year, the cancer crept into her bones and she was forced to walk instead. After only a few months of walking, she resorted to slow limping because of the pain. Last spring, she pulled out of her annual half marathon race. Each time she ran in years past, she wore a hat on her baby- bird hair covered head and a thick sleeve on her swollen arm. One of the reasons she was so anxious to get to heaven, I believe, was to run again.
As Nancy was dying, her true colors showed (dying does that to a person.) They were brilliant. She smiled and said that she had done everything in her life that she had hoped for. She died with no regrets. She had parented the best that she knew how as a single mother and felt no guilt about any mistakes that she had made because she made amends with each of her children. One thing she said on her death bed impacted me enormously. She told her children (ages 18-29) that there were four principles that she wanted each of them to live with in her honor. Here is what she said to them.
Be humble. Don’t ever let yourself feel that you are better or worse than another person. Know that your value is equal to the most brilliant person on earth or the poorest on the street. Live it and love others well. If you have no humility, you cannot love others well.
Be truthful. Always tell the truth. Of course it’s tough, but living openly and honestly is the only way to live at peace with yourself. Once you begin to lie, you become gnarled in self-deceit and compromise the health of each of your relationships.
Be faithful. Love God and hold onto Him. Yes it may feel impossible but never let go because once you do, you lose your bearings completely. And be faithful to loved ones. Care for them and don’t hurt anyone behind his back. Keep your commitment to love them well by showing your unwillingness to betray them in even the slightest way.